Being half Ecuadorian and half Korean, I’ve been asked “what are you?” everywhere I’ve gone my entire life. It’s hard for most people to guess my ethnicity, and constantly defending what I am—or what I’m not—can be exhausting. My grandparents’ home—filled with the rich aromas of achiote-stained meats, fiery pozole, and sweet tamales—is the one place where I can let down my defense. Neither my grandma or grandpa question if I am Latinx enough; they just know me as someone they want to share a table, and pass a bowl of escabeche with. I always leave their home feeling stronger in myself, as part of a greater cultural fabric (and with some leftovers, of course).
No matter what was for dinner, there was always a side of escabeche. There are many kinds of escabeche out there, but my grandma’s is the best: Charred jalapeños, carrots, onions, and whole garlic cloves pickled in oregano- and thyme-laced vinegar. If a rich, fatty meat knocks down your palette, her escabeche is there to lift it back up.
The uncertainty of our future and my inability to be with my grandparents has left me feeling unsettled these past few months. It’s not much, but at least I can make this escabeche when I’m feeling especially homesick. With one bite, I’m transported back to my grandma’s kitchen where she’s telling me about her day in Spanish, while a telenovela hums in the background. It’s the taste of home, a reminder that I’m part of a larger history, and that things will continue on. —Kiera Wright-Ruiz